Page last updated at 19:00 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 20:00 UK

Heart drug removes girl's tumour

Sophie Orton and her mother Andrea Orton
Within four weeks, Sophie Orton's tumour was the size of a grape

A baby girl from Warrington who had an eyelid tumour that nearly blinded her, has had it removed by a drug usually used for heart defects.

Sophie Orton was given propranolol by specialists in Bedfordshire and is now recovering at home with her family.

Within the space of two weeks, the six-month-old's mother Andrea Orton, said it had "disappeared and practically melted from her face".

It is one of the first times the drug has been used in such a way.

Without the treatment, eye surgery would have had to be carried out, which could have left her face scarred.

Her parents said they were devastated when they were told she had a haemongioma tumour, which could have left Sophie with severe scarring.

Mrs Orton said: "It was probably when she was eight weeks old and I noticed a really small swelling on the top of her eye.

"It didn't go we but thought it maybe a blocked tear duct.

"Over a few days it started get bigger and bigger and after a week we became really worried because it had a bluish tinge to it."

'Really frightening'

After a visit to their local health worker, Sophie was transferred straight to hospital where she had an MRI scan and the tumour was diagnosed.

Within four weeks it had become the size of a grape.

Sophie Orton
The tumour disappeared in just two weeks after she was given the drug

"It was really frightening, every day it was looking bigger and bigger, in fact it doubled in size every week," Mrs Orton said.

The family was told that nothing could be done immediately as it was not affecting her eyesight and it would be safer to treat her when she was older.

Sophie's father Dr Mike Orton said: "We wanted to be pro-active, we didn't want her going to school needing to have operations, we wanted to do something soon."

He received an email from a French doctor in Bordeaux, France, who told him that specialists in Bedfordshire wanted to use a heart drug in a very different way.

Within hours of being given the drug, Sophie's tumour had decreased in size and within two weeks it had gone.

Dr Peter Mahaffey, who controlled Sophie's treatment, said: "We gave her varying amounts of the drug because we weren't sure how it would affect her with it being a very new way of using it.

"It is quite extraordinary how this drug works and how the tumours disappear so quickly.

"Without this it could have taken 12 months to remove the tumour."

She will continue to take the drug until she is nine months old to make sure her tumour does not return.

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